Today is the first in my [tag]NFL Division previews[/tag], and today we will be taking a short but complete look at the NFC West and making predictions on how the West will be won:
[tag]Seattle[/tag] – Precdiction for 2006 11-5: The Seahwks are still having nightmares about early Feburary in Detroit, where they clearly had the Steelers on the ropes and were doing everything right in Super Bowl XL. Instead, they have to live with it everyday that they had the game in hand, only to have mistakes and penalties keep them from winning their first Super Bowl. In 2006, the Hawks will again be very solid all the way around. In the last three seasons they have won 13, 9 and 10 games, and been to the playoffs those three years. They averaged 370 yards a game a year ago, and with Matt Hasselbeck and [tag]Shaun Alexander[/tag], you can look for close to a repeat performance. The wide outs may be a little weak, but they still found a way to get it done in 05, and should again this year. The defense is lead by a group of young, agressive players, and should again have a solid year. The division is tougher with [tag]Arizona[/tag] and St.Louis getting better, but the Hawks should still win the division and host at least one playoff game at noisy Qwest Field.
Arizona – Prediction for 2006 10-6: This is one of the more up and coming teams in the NFC and in the NFL. The big question about Arizona is [tag]Kurt Warner[/tag], and if he does not come through, will Matt Leinart be ready to take the regins? They seemed primed to have a big year in 2005, but actually took a step backwards and went 5-11 after going 6-10 in 2004. A new stadium, [tag]Edgerrin James[/tag], and some stud wide outs will give Arizona its most exciting team in franchise history. It’ll be up to Denny Green to right the wrongs on defense, and get this team ready for a playoff run in December.
[tag]St.Louis[/tag] – Prediction for 2006 7-9: The Rams had a good run before last season, winning 20 games in two years before last years 6-10 season. They have a new look with new coach Scott Linehan, and will look to run the ball more on offense to take the pressure off of Marc Bulger. Steven Jackson may have a monster year in this offense, and should easily surpass his 1046 yard effort from a year ago. Torry Holt and Issac Bruce need to stay healthy, and the defense cannot allow 27 points a game like it did a year ago if they want to improve. I don’t see them getting all that much better record wise in 2006, but give Linehan a year to make some moves, and this team might be ready to challenge for a NFC West title again in 2007.
[tag]San Francisco[/tag] – Prediciton for 2006 4-12: Sorry 49’ers fans, but things are not going to get much better in 2006 then they did in 05. The 9’ers have won just 6 games in two seasons, and Mike Nolan has the task of trying to continue to turn this team in the right direction and relive the days of even 2001 (12-4) and 2002 (10-6). San Francisco scored just 15 points a game last season, and are despertly hoping that [tag]Alex Smith[/tag] starts to show signs of improvement. So far, he has had an up and down preseason. Last year he threw just one TD and 11 picks, and had a QB rating of 40.8. Trent Dilfer may see some serious time as backup to Smith if the 2nd year back struggles again. Frank Gore will now be the full-time feature back with Kevan Barlow in New York, and he needs to continue his trend of a high average per carry (4.8 in 2005). The defense allowed close to 400 yards per game, and Nolan’s biggest task along with making Smith a better QB will be to get the defense on the right track. Have patience 49’ers fans…things will get better sooner than later. Just not in 2006.